France entered lockdown on March 17th at 11:00, 56 days later our restrictions started to ease.
Throughout this unprecedented time, Dan and I referred to our lives in France as being on hold. We embraced the opportunity to pause and reflect. Learning some new skills and dedicating time and attention to the neglected elements of our lives.
Someday I will share exactly what we got up to during our isolation but a major element was related to planning for our lives ‘Post lockdown’.
So here we are, Post lockdown + 1 week.
France is maintaining a number of restrictions due to COVID and we are not expecting much change to those now until June. Nevertheless, we are no longer required to remain within 1km of our home address when exercising and we can use our bikes again (they were banned!)
We can also leave home for more than just a trip to the local food shop or pharmacy and can now travel up to 100km or within the confines of our department. Gatherings up to 10 people are also allowed.
I just want to take a moment to elaborate a little on what ‘home’ actually is for us. Whilst we remain living in our motorhome our good friends in the Dordogne have allowed us to consider their home a permanent base during this time.
Shops have reopened, some parks/ lakes and recreational areas are welcoming locals and house viewings can recommence (with additional precautions – masks/ gloves/ hand sanitiser). It feels a little like spring has arrived as people start to emerge from hibernation.
After 7 months of travelling to narrow down our search areas, a winter of googling houses and researching locations and 2 months locked down and planning we were on the starting blocks first thing on the 11th and ready to go!
House viewing for rent or purchase is currently permitted in France. Its actually classed as one of the allowable reasons for traveling more than 100km outside of your home department.
Our shopping trip commenced on May 12th and in the space of 5 days we saw 10 properties for purchase and 3 properties for rent. Our feet barely touched the floor although we did remain quite close to ‘home’ for the duration as we waited to see how things settled after the 11th before venturing further away.
A good friend recently told me that we are not yet fully immersed in the French way of life as our lunch breaks are non-existant and the days far too long. I kid you not…we crammed so much in that there was no time for eating! I actually had to post some pieces of ham into Dan’s face at one point to stop the tummy growls from both of us as he was driving from one viewing to another!
Perhaps the most random part of this week’s viewings occurred right at the start.
We had a couple of hours to kill before meeting an agent so we arranged to go and view a bike for sale nearby. The bike was not exactly what we were looking for so didn’t purchase but did get talking to the seller.
Turns out they are renting a property close by that’s for sale and sounds like exactly what we are looking for… so we went to see it! The house didn’t quite meet our needs in the end but whilst viewing it we did find another abandoned bike in the barn which we managed to buy instead!
Side note….the house we viewed also happened to be one on our list to go and see! Two birds…one stone as they say!
A pleasant side effect of house viewing is the chit chat that comes with it! One property viewing resulted in a few days worth of work for Dan and I after the owner found out about our skills. I say ‘our’ but actually I am just Dans manager…he is the ones with the skills in demand!
Another little side bar here regarding work…Dan and I are in the process of setting up our business. Obviously we will be all official and such before taking on any paid work!
When we first decided to move over here we assumed the majority of our income would be from the tourist industry but we are now realising that there is demand over here for young/ fit/ can-do kind of people with general handy-man type skills.
This week also saw me have a minor falling out with an agent. I think in reality it was simply a clash of personalities but I was unimpressed by the customer service and sadly he refused to show me some very promising properties so he had to go!
Thankfully where there is a will there is a way and the same dear friend who above told me about appropriate lunch breaks also happens to be an estate agent over here. Let me know if you are looking for property and I can hook you up!
With his guidance, I very quickly found an alternative agent from the same company who was willing to go house shopping with me and all was well!
Lesson learned about the French house buying system. Quite often agents are self-employed and the commission they earn from a house can be split. One bundle of money for the agent who signs the house onto the agency and one for the agent who actually sells the house! We learn a little every day!
A lot of the houses we have seen this week are vacant and a little tired. Its quite emotionally draining to see someone else’s dream that’s faded away, often for a variety of different reasons! It could however just be our budget that’s exposing us to properties that need a little TLC or a quick sale!
We learned a while back that French agents can make quite a lot of money from the sale of a house and so there is a good opportunity to negotiate if you can find a property privately and negotiate direct.
So much so that hunting down a house on google earth has become a CV worthy skill set for us and a bit of a game! You can spot a house on a search engine like Right Move and then piece together the details to locate it on the map. If however, you go via an agent they make you sign a Bon De Visite which basically means that if you buy then they get the commission.
It’s worth a little work to try and go private as the buyer pays the agents fee and it can be as much as 10%!
My favourite moment this week was feeling a bit like we were on a TV show! We met an agent to view two houses and he ended up showing us 4. One of which he referred to as the ‘wild card’. Totally different to anything we had seen before or planned to see in the future. It’s only gone and made it onto the shortlist! I felt like I was on a new life in the sun! We even played guess the price!
Funnily enough, we did actually go and see a property this week that had featured on a New Life in the sun – By accident!
We met our agent at the pre-defined meeting place (almost never at the actual house that’s for sale as that would give away its location and therefore allow you to potentially talk to the owner direct before signing a Bon De Visite) and followed them to the house.
Pulling into the drive I am thinking WOW whilst at the same time also thinking…it’s very different from the photos on the website! Turns out it’s a totally different house and the agent had gotten confused! We viewed it anyway even if only to steal some of the design ideas!
All in all its been a great week and having taken Sunday and Monday off viewings we are fully recharged and ready to go again next week!